News & Events

Analysis: what exactly causes dead water to slow down sea-going vessels? Hint: it's not sea-monsters or supernatural forces

20 Jan 2020

Dead water is a term which describes the fascinating nautical phenomenon whereby the speed of a vessel slackens suddenly, and dramatically, with no apparent cause observable from the surface of the ocean. Descriptions of the phenomenon can be traced back to the early seafarers of antiquity, for whom it must have been a very frightening and mysterious experience indeed. This is reflected in the quite outlandish (and unscientific) range of causes they put forward to explain dead water: sea-monsters, submarine magnetic rocks, supernatural forces and hordes of fish sticking to the ship’s body (an explanation attributed to the Roman-era Pliny the Naturalist). 

For full story please check out the published article on the RTE website:



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